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Full text of "The Unity Of The Church By St Cyprian Of Carthage"

TEE UNITY 
OF TEE CEURCH 



Translated by 

ROY J. DEFERRARI, Ph.D. 

The Catholic University of America 




THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 

j he chief sources for Cyprian's views on the subject 
of the unity of the Church are his Letter 43 and 
his treatise on the subject which is being presented 
here. As a matter of fact, the present treatise represents merely 
a feebler treatment of the subject than that contained in 
Letter 43. Thus the most accurate understanding of Cyprian's 
convictions on the unity of the Church is to be obtained by 
a careful reading of his own discussion of the matter, which 
follows. 

A brief summary of Cyprian's views, however, may well 
be of profit here. His attitude on the baptism of heretics 
was closely bound up with his convictions about the unity 
of Church. He says (Letter 70.3) : 'Baptism is one, just as 
the Holy Spirit is one, just as the Church is one/ 1 

This famous pamphlet was read by Cyprian to the council 
which met in April, with a view to obtaining the support of 
the bishops against the schism which was started by Felicissi- 
mus and Novatus, 2 and which had a large following. The 
unity conceived by Cyprian is not so much the unity of the 
whole Church, the necessity of which he assumes, as the 
unity to be preserved in each diocese by the union with 
the bishop. The great problem of the day was unity with 
and loyalty to the individual bishops within their dioceses, 

1 Letter 70.3. 

2 Letter 53. 

91 



92 SAINT CYPRIAN 

especially since so many responsibilities of doctrine as well of 
administration rested on them by reason of the lack of close 
and speedy contact with the bishop of Rome, caused by the 
existing modes of communication. The unity of the whole 
Church is maintained by the close union of the bishops who 
are 'glued to one another.' Thus whoever is not united 
with his bishop is cut off from the unity of the Church, and 
cannot be united with Christ. The type of the bishop, accord- 
ing to Cyprian, is St. Peter, the first bishop. St. Cyprian 
nowhere specifically declares the primacy of the see of Rome 
and complete obedience to it except in the fourth section 
of the present treatise, accepting the longer version of that 
section as alone authentic and written by Cyprian himself. 

In general, Cyprian seems to feel that there is no serious 
need of focusing attention on this phase of .the unity of the 
Church. Where the great danger to Church lay at this time 
was in rebellion against individual bishops and in the frag- 
mentation of the diocese. What Cyprian wishes to stress is 
simply this, that Christ, using the metaphor of an edifice, 
founded His Church on a single foundation which shall mani- 
fest and insure its unity. And as Peter is the foundation, bind- 
ing the whole Church together, so in each diocese is the 
bishop. With this one argument Cyprian claims to cut at the 
root of all heresies and schisms. 

The fourth chapter of The Unity of the Church has come 
down to us in a twofold version, one of which contains 'ad- 
ditions' which stress the primacy of Peter. Long controversy 
has been waged on the question of their origin. Hartel, the 
editor of the works of St. Cyprian in the Corpus Scriptorum 
Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum vigorously denounced them as 
spurious, and his opinion was generally accepted until the 
turnof the century. Dom Chapman 3 was the first to suggest 

3 Xes interpolations dans le traits de S. Cyprien sur l'unite de l'EKlise,' 
Revue Benedictine, 19 (1902) . 246-254, 357-373; 20 (1903) , 20-51. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 93 

another theory. He attempted to prove that the variations 
were not due to a corruption of the text but to a revision 
of the text made by Cyprian himself. This belief seems to 
have been firmly established by later investigators, such as 
D. van den Eynde, O. Perler, and M. Benevot. The latter, 
however, differ from Dom Chapman in one important respect. 
They insist that the version with the additions is the earlier, 
and the other the final form, revising the opinion of Dom 
Chapman in this matter. Dom Jean Le Moyne 4 not only 
substantiates van den Eynde, Perler, and Benevot but goes 
even further. On the basis of strong and convincing evidence 
he concludes that the version without the so-called interpola- 
tions is not by Cyprian; only the longer form including the 
'additions' is the authentic version by Cyprian himself. 

In our translation we have followed the text in Chapter 
4 as established by Dom Le Moyne. 

4 'Saint Cyprien est- il bien l'auteur de la redaction breve du "De 
unitate" chapitre 4?" Revue Benidictine, 63 (1953) , 70-115. 




THE UNITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH 



Chapter 1 

Iince the Lord warns us in these words: 'Ye are 
the salt of the earth, 51 and since He bids us to be 
simple unto harmlessness, and yet to be prudent 
with our simplicity, what else, most beloved brethren, befits 
us than to have foresight and watching with an anxious 
heart alike to perceive the snares of the crafty enemy 2 and to 
beware lest we, who have put on Christ the wisdom of God 
the Father, seem to be less wise in guarding our salvation. 
For persecution alone is not to be feared, nor the advances 
which are made in open attack to overwhelm and cast down 
the servants of God. To be cautious is easier when the object 
of fear is manifest, and the soul is prepared for the contest 
beforehand, when the adversary declares himself. The enemy 
is more to be feared and guarded against when he creeps 
up secretly, when deceiving us under the appearance of peace 
he steals forward by hidden approaches, from which too he 
receives the name of serpent (creeper, crawler, stealer). This 
is always his cunning; this is his blind and dark deceit for 
circumventing men. Thus from the very beginning of the 

1 Matt. 5.13. 

2 St. Cyprian refers to the devil as adversarius, diabolus, even serpens, 
but never as Satan or daemon. 

95 



96 SAINT CYPRIAN 

world did he deceive and, flattering with lying words, mis- 
lead the inexperienced soul with its reckless incredulity. Thus 
trying to tempt the Lord himself, as if he would creep up 
again and deceive, he approaches secretly. Yet he was under- 
stood and driven back and so cast down, because he was 
discovered and unmasked. 



Chapter 2 

In this an example has been given us to flee the way of 
the old man; to walk in the footsteps of the conquering 
Christ, that we may not heedlessly be turned back again 
unto the snare of death, but that, on guard against the 
danger, we may receive and possess immortality. But how 
can we possess immortality, unless we keep those command- 
ments of Christ by which death is overcome and conquered, 
He Himself, warning us in these words: 'If thou wilt enter 
into life, keep the commandments,' 1 and again: 'If you do 
what I command you, I no longer call you servant but 
friends.' 2 These, finally, He calls strong and steadfast, these 
grounded upon a rock of firm foundation, these firmly 
established against all the tempests and storms of the world 
with an unmoveable and unshaken firmness. 'He who hears 
my words,' He says, 'and does them, I shall liken him to 
a wise man who built his house upon a rock. The rain 
descended and the floods came, the winds blew and beat 
upon that house, but it did not fall, for it was founded upon 
a rock.' 3 Therefore, we ought to stand firm upon His words, 
and to learn and do whatever He taught and did. But how 
doeshe sa Y th at he believes in Christ who does not do what 

1 Matt. 19.17. 

2 John 15.14,15. 

3 Matt. 7.2425. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 97 

Christ ordered him to do? Or, whence shall he attain the 
reward of faith, who does not keep the faith of the com- 
mandment? He will necessarily waver and wander, and 
caught up by the breath of error will be blown as the dust 
which the wind stirs up, nor will he make any advance in 
his walk toward salvation, who does not hold to the truth 
of the saving way. 

Chapter 3 

But not only must we guard against things which are 
open and manifest but also against those which deceive with 
the subtlety of clever fraud. Now what is more clever, or 
what more subtle than that the enemy, detected and cast 
down by the coming of Christ, after light had come to the 
Gentiles, and the saving splendor had shone forth for the 
preservation of man, that the deaf might receive the 
hearing of spiritual grace, the blind open their eyes to 
the Lord, the weak grow strong with eternal health, the 
lame run to the church, the dumb supplicate with clear 
voices and prayers, seeing the idols abandoned and his 
shrines and temples deserted because of the great populace 
of believers, devise a new fraud, under the very title of 
Christian name to deceive 1 the incautious? He invented her- 
esies and schisms with which to overthrow the faith, to cor- 
rupt the truth, to divide unity. Those whom he cannot hold 
in the blindness of the old way, he circumvents and deceives 
by the error of a new way. He snatches men from the Church 
itself, and, while they seem to themselves to have already 
approached the light and to have escaped the night of the 

1 Cyprian distinguishes between heresy and schism. Heresy is a volun- 
tary choice of a false doctrine. Schism, implies rather a split in the 
unity of the Church. Synonyms for the Latin schisma are scissura, 
discidium, discordia, and dissensio. 



98 SAINT CYPRIAN 

world, he again pours forth other shadows upon the unsus- 
specting, so that, although they do not stand with the Gospel 
of Christ and with the observation of Him and with the 
law, they call themselves Christians, and, although they 
walk in darkness, they think that they have light, while the 
adversary cajoles and deceives, who, as the Apostle says, 
transforms himself into an angel of light, and adorns his 
ministers as those of justice who offer night for day, death 
for salvation, despair under the offer of hope, perfidy 2 under 
the pretext of faith, antichrist under the name of Christ, so 
that while they tell plausible lies, they frustrate the truth 
by their subtlety. This happens, most beloved brethren, 
because there is no return to the source of truth, and the 
Head is not sought, and the doctrine of the heavenly Master 
is not kept. 

Chapter 4 

If anyone considers and examines these things, there is no 
need of a lengthy discussion and arguments. Proof for faith 
is easy in a brief statement of the truth. The Lord speaks 
to Peter: 'I say to thee,' He says, 'thou art Peter, and upon 
this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall 
not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the 
kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth 
shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose 
on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.' 1 Upon him, being 
one, He builds His Church, and although after His resur- 
rection He bestows equal power upon all the Apostles, and 
says: 'As the Father has sent me, I also send you. Receive 

2 Latin perfidia, here translated 'perfidy,' is in Cyprian always the 
opposite of fides, 'faith'; hence, lack of faith. 



1 Matt. 16.18,19. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 99 

ye the Holy Spirit: if you forgive the sins of anyone, they 
will be forgiven him; if you retain the sins of anyone, they 
will be retained,' 2 yet that He might display unity, He 
established by His authority the origin of the same unity 
as beginning from one. Surely the rest of the Apostles also 
were that which Peter was, endowed with an equal partner- 
ship of office and of power, but the beginning proceeds 
from unity, that the Church of Christ may be shown to be 
one. This one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Canticle 
of Canticles 3 designates in the person of the Lord and says: 
'One is my dove, my perfect one is but one, she is the only 
one of her mother, the chosen one of her that bore her.' 
Does he who does not hold this unity think that he holds 
the faith? Does he who strives against the Church and resists 
her think that he is in the Church, when too the blessed 
Apostle Paul teaches this same thing and sets forth the 
sacrament of unity saying: 'One body and one Spirit, one 
hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 
one God'?* 

Chapter 5 

This unity we ought to hold firmly and defend, especially 
we bishops who watch over the Church, that we may prove 
that also the episcopate itself is one and undivided. Let 
no one deceive the brotherhood by lying; let no one cor- 
rupt the faith by a perfidious prevarication of the truth. 
The episcopate is one, the parts of which are held together 
by the individual bishops. The Church is one which with 
increasing fecundity extend far and wide into the multitude, 
just as the rays of the sun are many but the light is one, 

2 John 2051,23. 

3 Cant. 6.8. 

4 Cf. Eph. 4.4-6. 



100 SAINT CYPRIAN 

and the branches of the tree are many but the strength is 
one founded in its tenacious root, and, when many streams 
flow from one source, although a multiplicity of waters 
seems to have been diffused from the abundance of the 
overflowing supply nevertheless unity is preserved in their 
origin. Take away a ray of light from the body of the sun, 
its unity does not take on any division of its light; break 
a branch from a tree, the branch thus broken will not be 
able to bud; cut off a stream from its source, the stream 
thus cut off dries up. Thus too the Church bathed in the 
light of the Lord projects its rays over the whole world, yet 
there is one light which is diffused everywhere, and the 
unity of the body is not separated. She extends her branches 
over the whole earth in fruitful abundance; she extends her 
richly flowing streams far and wide; yet her head is one, 
and her source is one, and she is the one mother copious 
in the results of her fruitfulness. By her womb we are born; 
by her milk we are nourished; by her spirit we are animated. 



Chapter 6 

The spouse of Christ cannot be defiled; she is uncorrupted 
and chaste. She knows one home, with chaste modesty she 
guards the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God; she 
assigns the children whom she has created to the kingdom. 
Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined with 
an adulteress is separated from the promises of the Church, 
nor will he who has abandoned the Church arrive at the 
rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he 
is an enemy. He cannot have God as a father who does 
not have the Church as a mother. If whoever was out- 
side the ark of Noe was able to escape, he too who is outside 
the Church escapes. The Lord warns, saying: 'He who is 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 101 

not with me is against me, and who does not gather with 
me, scatters.' 1 He who breaks the peace and concord of 
Christ acts against Christ; he who gathers somewhere out- 
side the Church scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord 
says: 'I and the Father are one.' 2 And again of the Father 
and Son and the Holy Spirit it is written: 'And these three 
are one.' 3 Does anyone believe that this unity which comes 
from divine strength, which is closely connected with the 
divine sacraments, can be broken asunder in the Church 
and be separated by the divisions of colliding wills? He who 
does not hold this unity, does rot hold the law of God, 
does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not 
hold life and salvation. 



Chapter 7 

This sacrament of unity, this bond of concord inseparably 
connected is shown, when in the Gospel the tunic of the 
Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided and is not torn, but 
by those who cast lots for the garment of Christ, who rather 
might have put on Christ, a sound garment is received, 
and an undamaged and undivided tunic is possessed. Divine 
Scripture speaks and says: 'Now of the tunic, since it was 
woven throughout from the upper part without seam, they 
said to one another: "Let us not tear it, but let us cast lots 
for it, whose it shall be." n He bore the unity that came 
down from the upper part, that is, that came down from 
heaven and the Father, which could not all be torn by him 

1 Matt. 12.30. 

2 John 10.30. 

3 1 John 5.7. 



1 John 19.23,24. 



102 



SAINT CYPRIAN 



who received and possessed it, but he obtained it whole once 
for all and a firmness inseparably solid. He cannot possess 
the garment of Christ who tears and divides the Church 
of Christ. Then on the other hand when at the death of 
Solomon his kingdom and people were torn asunder, Ahias 
the prophet met King Jeroboam in the field and tore his 
garment into twelve pieces, saying: 'Take to thee ten pieces, 
for thus saith the Lord: "Behold I rend the kingdom out 
of the hand of Solomon, and will give thee ten sceptres, 
but two sceptres shall remain to him for the sake of my 
servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem the city which 
I have chosen, that I may place my name there." ' 2 When 
the twelve tribes of Israel were torn asunder, the prophet 
Ahias rent his garment. But because the people of Christ 
cannot be torn asunder, His tunic woven and united through- 
out was not divided by those who possessed it. Undivided, 
joined, connected it shows the coherent concord of us who 
have put on Christ. By the sacrament and sign of His gar- 
ment, He has declared the unity of the Church. 



Chapter 8 

Who then is so profane and lacking in faith, who so 
insane by the fury of discord as either to believe that the 
unity of God, the garment of the Lord, the Church of 
Christ, can be torn asunder or to dare to do so? He Him- 
self warns us in His Gospel, and teaches saying: 'And there 
shall be one flock and one shepherd. 51 And does anyone 
think that there can be either many shepherds or many 
flocks in one place? Likewise the Aposde Paul insinuating 

2 Cf. 3 Kings 11.31,32,36. 
1 John 10.16. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 103 

this same unity upon us beseeches and urges us in these 
words: 'I beseech you, brethren/ he says, 'by the name 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, 
and that there be no dissensions among you: but that you 
be perfectly united in the same mind and in the same judg- 
ment.' 2 And again he says: 'Bearing with one another in 
love, careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit, in the bond 
of peace.' 3 Do you think that you can stand and live, with- 
drawing from the Church, and building for yourself other 
abodes and different dwellings, when it was said to Rhaab, 
in whom the Church was prefigured: 'You shall gather your 
father and your mother and your brethren and the entire 
house of your father to your own self in your house, and 
it will be that everyone who goes out of the door of your 
house shall be his own accuser'; 4 likewise, when the sacra- 
ment of the Passover contains nothing else in the law of the 
Exodus than that the lamb which is slain in the figure of 
Christ be eaten in one house? God speaks, saying: 'In one 
house it shall be eaten, you shall not carry the flesh outside 
of the house.' 5 The flesh of Christ and the holy of the Lord 
cannot be carried outside, and there is no other house for 
believers except the one Church. This house, this hospice of 
unanimity the Holy Spirit designates and proclaims, when He 
says: 'God who makes those of one mind to dwell in his 
house.' 6 In the house of God, in the Church of Christ, those of 
one mind dwell; they persevere in concord and simplicity. 

2 1 Cor. 1.10. 

3 Eph. 43. 

4 Cf. Josue 2.18,19. 

5 Exod. 12.46. 

6 Cf. Ps. 67.7. 



104 SAINT CYPRIAN 

Chapter 9 

So the Holy Spirit came in a dove. It is a simple and 
happy animal, not bitter with gall, not cruel with its bites, 
not violent with lacerating claws; it loves the hospitalities of 
men; when they give birth they bring forth their offspring 
together; when they go and come they cling together; they 
spend their lives in mutual intercourse; they recognize the 
concord of peace by the kiss of the beak; they fulfill the law 
of unanimity in all things. This is the simplicity which ought 
to be known in the Church; this the charity to be attained, 
that the love of the brethren imitate the doves, that their 
gentleness and tenderness equal that of the lambs and the 
sheep. What is the savagery of wolves doing in the breast of 
a Christian, and the madness of dogs and the lethal poison 
of snakes and the bloody cruelties of beasts? Congratulations 
are due, when such as these are separated from the Church, 
lest they prey upon the doves and sheep with their cruel 
and venemous contagion. Bitterness cannot cling and join with 
sweetness, darkness with light, rains with clear weather, fight- 
ing with peace, sterility with fecundity, drought with running 
waters, storm with calm. Let no one think that the good can 
depart from the Church; the wind does not ravage the 
wheat, nor does the storm overturn the tree strongly and 
solidly rooted; the light straws are tossed about by the 
tempest; the feeble trees are thrown down by the onrush 
of the whirlwind. The Apostle Paul execrates and strikes at 
these, when he says: 'They have gone forth from us, but they 
were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would have 
continued with us.' 1 

1 1 John 2.19. 



THE UNITY OE THE CHURCH 105 

Chapter 10 

Hence heresies have both frequently arisen and are arising, 
while the perverse mind has no peace, while discordant 
perfidy does not maintain unity. Indeed the Lord permits and 
suffers these things to happen, while the choice of one's own 
liberty remains, so that, while the norm of truth examines 
our hearts and minds, the sound faith of those who are 
approved may become manifest in a clear light. Through 
the Apostle the Holy Spirit forewarns and says: 'For there 
must be factions, so that those who are approved among you 
may be made manifest.' 1 Thus the faithful are approved; 
thus the perfidious are disclosed; thus also before the day of 
judgment, already here too the souls of the just and the 
unjust are divided and the chaff is separated from the wheat. 
From these are those who of their own accord set themselves 
over daring strangers without divine appointment, who estab- 
lish themselves as prelates without any law of ordination, 
who assume the name of bishop for themselves, although no 
one gives them the episcopacy; whom the Holy Spirit in the 
psalms designates as sitting in the chair of pestilence, the 
plague and disease of the faith, deceiving with a serpent's 
tongue and masters in corrupting truth, vomiting lethal poi- 
sons from their pestilential tongues, whose speech creeps 
about like cancer, whose discussions inject a deadly virus 
within the breast and heart of everyone. 

1 1 Cor. 11.19. 



106 SAINT CYPRIAN 

Chapter 11 

Against such people the Lord cries out; from these He 
restrains and recalls His wandering people saying: 'Hearken 
not to the words of false prophets, since the visions of their 
hearts frustrate them. They speak, but not from the mouth 
of the Lord. They say to them who reject the word of God: 
Peace shall be to you and to all who walk in their own 
desires. To everyone who walks in the errors of his own 
heart [they say]: 'Evil shall not come upon you.' I have 
not spoken to them, yet they have prophesied. If they had 
stood in my counsel and had heard my words, and if they 
had taught my people, I would have turned them from 
their evil thoughts.' 1 These same people does the Lord again 
designate and point out, when He says: 'They have aban- 
doned me to the fountain of living water, and have dug for 
themselves broken cisterns which cannot hold water.' 2 Al- 
though there cannot be another baptism than the one, they 
think that they baptize; although the fountain of life has 
been deserted, they promise the grace of the life-giving and 
saving water. There men are not washed but rather are made 
foul, nor are their sins purged but on the contrary piled 
high. That nativity generates sons not for God but for the 
devil. Being born through a lie they do not obtain the prom- 
ises of truth; begotten of perfidy they lose the grace of faith. 
They cannot arrive at the reward of peace who have broken 
the peace of the Lord by the madness of discord. 

1 Cf. Jer. 23.16-17, 21-22. 

2 Jer. 2.13. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 107 

Chapter 12 

Let not certain ones deceive themselves by an empty inter- 
pretation of what the Lord has said: 'Whenever two or 
three have gathered together in my name, I am with them.' 1 
Corrupters and false interpreters of the Gospel quote the last 
words and pass over earlier ones, being mindful of part and 
craftily suppressing part. As they themselves have been cut 
off from the Church, so they cut off a sentence of one 
chapter. For when the Lord urged unanimity and peace 
upon His disciples, He said : 'I say to you that if. two of you 
agree upon earth concerning anything whatsoever that you 
shall ask, it shall be granted you by my Father who is in 
heaven. For wherever two or three have gathered together 
in my name, I am with them,' 2 showing that the most is 
granted not to the multitude but to the unanimity of those 
that pray. 'If two of you,' He says, 'agree upon earth' ; He 
placed unanimity first; He set the concord of peace first; 
He taught that we should agree faithfully and firmly. But 
how can he agree with anyone, who does not agree with the 
body of the Church herself and with the universal brother- 
hood? How can two or three be gathered in the name of 
Christ, who it is clear are separated from Christ and His 
gospel? For we did not withdraw from them, but they from 
us, and when thereafter heresies and schisms arose, while 
they were establishing diverse meeting places for themselves, 
they abandoned the source and origin of truth. The Lord, 
moreover, is speaking of His Church, and He is speaking to 
those who are in the Church, that if they are in agreement, 
if, according to what He has commanded and admonished, 
although two or three are gathered together, they pray with 
unanimity, although they are two or three, they can obtain 

1 Cf. Matt. 1850. 

2 Cf. Matt. 18:19,20. 



108 



SAINT CYPRIAN 



from the majesty of God, what they demand. 'Wherever two 
or three have gathered, I,' He said, 'am with them,' namely, 
with the simple and the peaceful, with those who fear God 
and keep the commandments of God. He said that He was 
with these although two or three, just as also He was with 
the three children in the fiery furnace, and, because they 
remained simple toward God and in unanimity among them- 
selves, He animated them in the midst of flames with the 
breath of dew; just as he was present with the two apostles 
shut up in prison, because they were simple, because they 
were of one mind, He opened the doors of the prison and 
returned them again to the market-place that they might 
pass on the word to the multitude which they were faithfully 
preaching. When then He lays it down in His commandments 
and says: 'Where there are two or three, I am with them,' 
He who established and made the Church did not separate 
men from the Church, but rebuking the faithless for their 
discord and commanding peace to the faithful by His word, 
He shows .that He is with two or three who pray with one 
mind rather than with a great many who are in disagreement, 
and that more can be obtained by the harmonious prayer 
of a few than by the discordant supplication of many. 



Chapter 13 

So too when He gave the law of prayer, He added, say- 
ing: 'And when you stand up to pray, forgive whatever you 
have against anyone, that your Father also who is in heaven 
may forgive you your offenses.' 1 And He calls back from the 
altar one who comes to the sacrifice with dissension, and 
He orders Him first to be reconciled with his brother and 
then return with peace and offer his gift to God, because 

1 Mark 11.25. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 109 

God did not look with favor upon the gifts of Cain; for 
he could not have God at peace with him, who through 
envious discord did not have peace with his brother. What 
peace then do the enemies of the brethren promise them- 
selves? What sacrifices do the imitators of priests believe that 
they celebrate? Do they who are gathered together outside 
the Church of Christ think that Christ is with them when 
they have been gathered together? 



Chapter 14 

Even if such men are slain in confession of the Name 
that stain is not washed away by blood; the inexpiable and 
serious fault of discord is purged not even by martyrdom. 
He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church. He will 
not be able to arrive in the kingdom who deserted her who 
is to rule. Christ gave us peace; He ordered us to be in 
agreement and of one mind; He commanded us to keep 
the bonds of love and charity uncorrupted and inviolate. He 
cannot display himself a martyr who has not maintained 
fraternal charity. The Apostle Paul teaches and bears witness 
to this when he says: 'If I have faith so that I remove 
mountains, but not so that I have charity, I am nothing; 
and if I distribute all my goods for food, and if I hand over 
my body so that I am burned, but not so that I have charity, 
I accomplish nothing. Charity is noble, charity is kind, 
charity envieth not, is not puffed up, is not provoked; does 
not act perversely, thinks no evil, loves all things, believes 
all things, hopes all things, bears all things. Charity never 
will fall away.' 'Never,' he says, 'will charity fall away.' 1 
For she will always be in the kingdom and will endure forever 
in the unity of the brotherhood clinging to it. Discord cannot 

1 Ct 1 Cor. 135-5,7,8. 



110 SAINT CYPRIAN 

come to the kingdom of heaven; to the rewards of Christ 
who said: 'This is my commandment that you love one 
another, even as I have loved you.' 2 He will not be able to 
attain it who has violated the love of Christ by perfidious dis- 
sension. He who does not have charity does not have God. 
The words of the blessed Apostle John are: 'God,' he says, 
'is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God and God 
abides in him.' 3 They cannot abide with God who have 
been unwilling to be of one mind in God's Church. Although 
they burn when given over to flames and fire, or lay down 
their lives when thrown to the beasts, that crown of faith 
will not be theirs, but the punishment of perfidy, and no 
glorious ending of religious valor but the destruction of 
desperation. Such a man can be slain; he cannot be crowned. 
Thus he professes himself to be a Christian, just as the devil 
often falsely declares himself to be even Christ, although 
the Lord forewarned of this saying: 'Many will come in 
my name saying: "I am the Christ," and will deceive many.' 4 
Just as He is not Christ, although he deceives in His name, 
so he cannot seem a Christian who does not abide in His 
Gospel and in the true faith. 



Chapter 15 

For both to prophesy and to drive out demons, and to 
perform great miracles on earth is certainly a sublime and 
admirable thing, yet whoever is found in all this does not 
attain the kingdom of heaven unless he walk in the observ- 
ance of the right and just way. The Lord gives warning and 
says: 'Many will say to me in that day: "Lord, Lord, have 

2 John 15.12. 

3 1 John 4.16. 

4 Mark 13.6. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 111 

we not prophesied in Thy name and cast out devils in thy 
name and worked great miracles in thy name?" And then 
I will say to them: "I never knew you. Depart from me ye 
workers of iniquity." n There is need of righteousness that 
one may deserve well of God as judge; His precepts and 
admonitions must be obeyed that our merits may receive their 
reward. The Lord in the Gospel, when he was directing 
the way of our hope and faith, in a brief summary said: 
'The Lord thy God is one Lord,' and 'Thou shalt love the 
Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole 
soul and with thy whole strength. This is the first, and the 
second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 
On these two commandments depend the whole law and the 
prophets.' 2 He taught at the same time unity and love by 
the authority of His teaching; He included all the prophets 
and the law in two commandments. But what unity does 
he preserve, what love does he guard or consider, who mad 
with the fury of discord splits the Church, destroys the 
faith, disturbs the peace, dissipates charity, profanes the 
sacrament? 

Chapter 16 

This evil, most faithful brethren, began long ago, but now 
the dangerous destruction of the same evil has increased, and 
the venemous plague of heretical perversity and schisms has 
begun to rise and to spread more, because even so it was 
to be at the decline of the world, for the Holy Spirit pro- 
claimed it to us and forewarned us through the Aposde : 'In 
the last days,' he says, 'dangerous times will come, men will 
be lovers of self, haughty, proud, covetous, blasphemous, dis- 
obedient to parents, ungrateful, impious, without affection, 

1 Matt. 7.22,23. 

2 Mark 1259-31; Matt. 22.37-40. 



112 



SAINT CYPRIAN 



without law, slanderers, incontinent, merciless, not loving the 
good, treacherous, stubborn, puffed up with pride, loving 
pleasure more than God, having a semblance of piety, but 
denying its power. Of such are they who make their way 
into houses and captivate silly women who are sin-laden and 
led away by various lusts; ever learning, yet never attaining 
knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Mambres resisted 
Moses, so these resist the truth. But they will make no further 
progress, for their folly will be obvious to all, as was that of 
those others.' 1 Whatever things were foretold are being ful- 
filled and, as the end of the world now approaches, have 
come with the testing of men and the times alike. More and 
more, as the adversary raves, error deceives, stupidity raises its 
head, envy inflames, covetousness blinds, impiety depraves, 
pride puffs up, discord exasperates, anger rushes headlong. 



Chapter 17 

Yet let not the extreme and precipitous perfidy of many 
move or disturb us, but rather let it strengthen our faith by 
the truth of things foretold. As certain ones begin to be 
such, because these things were predicted beforehand, thus 
let other brethren beware of matters of a similar sort, because 
these also were predicted, as the Lord instructed us saying: 
'Be on your guard therefore; behold I have told you all things 
beforehand.' 1 I beseech you, avoid men of this sort, and ward 
off from your side and from your hearing their pernicious 
conversation as the contagion of death, as it is written: 
'Hedge in thy ears with thorns, and hear not a wicked 
tongue.' 2 And again: 'Evil communications corrupt good 
1 Cf. 2 Tim. 3.1-9. 

1 Mark 1323. 

2 Eccli. 2854. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 1 13 

manners.' 3 The Lord teaches and admonishes that we must 
withdraw from such. 'They are blind guides,' He says, 'of 
the blind. But if a blind man guide a blind man, both shall 
fall into a pit.' 4 Such a one is to be turned away from, and 
whoever has separated himself from the Church is to be 
shunned. Such a man is perverted and sins and is con- 
demned by his very self. Does he seem to himself to be 
with Christ, who acts contrary to the priests of Christ, who 
separates himself from association with His clergy and His 
people? That man bears arms against the Church; he fights 
against God's plan. An enemy of the altar, a rebel against 
the sacrifice of Christ, for the faith faithless, for religion 
sacrilegious, a disobedient servant, an impious son, a hostile 
brother, despising the bishops and abandoning the priests 
of God, he dares to set up another altar, to compose another 
prayer with unauthorized words, to profane the truth of the 
Lord's offering by false sacrifices, and not to know that he 
who struggles against God's plan on account of his rash 
daring is punished by divine censure. 



Chapter 18 

Thus Core, Dathan, and Abiron, who tried to assume 
for themselves in opposition to Moses and Aaron the free- 
dom to sacrifice, immediately paid the penalty for their 
efforts. The earth, breaking its bonds, opened up into a 
deep chasm, and the opening of the receding ground swal- 
lowed up the standing and the living, and not only did the 
anger of the indignant God strike those who had been the 
authors [of the revolt], but fire that went out from the 
Lord in speedy revenge also consumed two hundred and fifty 

3 1 Cor. 15.33. 

4 Matt. 15.14. 



114 SAINT CYPRIAN 

others, participants and sharers in the same madness, who 
had been joined together with them in the daring, clearly 
warning and showing that whatever the wicked attempt by 
human will to destroy God's plan is done against God. 1 
Thus Ozias the king also, when, carrying the censer and 
violently assuming to himself the right to sacrifice contrary 
to the law of God, although Azarias, the priest, resisted him, 
he was unwilling to give way and obey, was confounded by 
the divine indignation and was polluted on his forehead by 
the spot of leprosy, being marked for his offense against 
the Lord where they are signed who merited well of the 
Lord. 2 And the sons of Aaron, who place a strange fire on 
the altar, which the Lord had not ordered, were immediately 
extinguished in the sight of the avenging Lord. 



Chapter 19 

These, certainly, they imitate and follow, who despise God's 
tradition and seek after strange doctrines and introduce 
teachings of human disposition. These the Lord rebukes and 
and reproves in His Gospel when He says: 'You reject the 
commandment of God that you may establish your own 
tradition.' 1 This crime is worse than that which the lapsed 
seem to have committed, who while established in penance 
for their crime beseech God with full satisfactions. Here the 
Church is sought and entreated, there the Church is resisted; 
here there can have been necessity, there the will is held in 
wickedness; here he who lapsed harmed only himself, there 
he who tried to cause a heresy or schism deceived many by 

1 Cf. Num. 16.25-35. 

2 Cf. 2 Par. 26.16-19. 
1 Cf. Mark 7.9. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 115 

dragging them with him; here there is the loss of one soul, 
there danger to a great many. Certainly this one knows that 
he has sinned and bewails and laments; that one swelling 
in his sin and taking pleasure in his very crimes separates 
children from their Mother, entices sheep from their shepherd, 
and disturbs the sacraments of God. And whereas the lapsed 
has sinned once, the former sins daily. Finally, the lapsed 
later, after achieving martyrdom, can receive the promises 
of the kingdom; the former, if he is killed outside the Church, 
cannot arrive at the rewards of the Church. 



Chapter 20 

Let no one marvel, most beloved brethren, that even 
certain of the confessors proceed to these lengths, that some 
also sin so wickedly and so grievously. For neither does con- 
fession [of Christ] make one immune from the snares of 
the devil, nor does it defend him who is still placed in the 
world, with a perpetual security against worldly temptations 
and dangers and onsets and attacks; otherwise never might 
we have seen afterwards among the confessors the deceptions 
and debaucheries and adulteries which now with groaning 
and sorrow we see among some. Whoever that confessor is, 
he is not greater or better or dearer to God than Solomon, 
who, however, as long as he walked in the ways of the Lord, 
so long retained the grace which he had received from the 
Lord; after he had abandoned the way of the Lord, he lost 
also the grace of the Lord. And so it is written: 'Hold what 
you have, lest another receive thy crown.' 1 Surely the Lord 
would not make this threat, that the crown of righteousness 
can be taken away, unless, when righteousness departs, the 
crown also must depart. 

1 Apoc. 8.11. 



116 SAINT CYPRIAN 

Chapter 21 

Confession is the beginning of glory, not already the merit 
of the crown; nor does it achieve praise, but it initiates 
dignity, and, since it is written; 'He that shall persevere to 
end, he shall be saved,' 1 whatever has taken place before 
the end is a step by which the ascent is made to the summit 
of salvation, not the end by which the topmost point is held 
secure. He is a confessor, but after the confession the danger 
is greater, because the adversary is the more provoked. He 
is a confessor; for this reason he ought to stand with the 
Gospel of the Lord, for by the Gospel he has obtained glory 
from the Lord. 'To whom much is given, of him much is 
required'; 2 and to whom the more dignity is allotted, from 
him the more service is demanded. Let no one perish through 
the example of a confessor, let no one learn injustice, no one 
insolence, no one perfidy from the habits of a confessor. 
He is a confessor; let him be humble and quiet, in his actions 
let him be modest with discipline, so that he who is called 
a confessor of Christ may imitate the Christ whom he con- 
fesses. For since he says: 'Everyone that exalts himself shall 
be humbled, and everyone that humbles himself shall be 
exalted,' 3 and since he himself has been exalted by the 
Father, because He, the Word and the Power and the 
Wisdom of God the Father humbled Himself on earth, how 
can He love pride who even by His law enjoined humility 
upon us and Himself received from the Father the highest 
name as the reward of humility? He is a confessor of Christ, 
but only if afterwards the majesty and dignity of Christ be 
not blasphemed by him. Let not the tongue which has con- 
fessed Christ be abusive nor boisterous; let it not be heard 

1 Matt. 10.22. 

2 Cf. Luke 12.48. 

3 Luke 18.14. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 117 

resounding with insults and contentions; let it not after 
words of praise shoot forth a serpent's poisons against the 
brethren and priests of God. But if he later become blame- 
worthy and abominable, if he dissipates his confession by 
evil conversation, if he pollutes his life with unseemly foulness, 
if, finally, abandoning the Church where he became a con- 
fessor and breaking the concord of its unity, he change his 
first faith for a later faithlessness, he cannot flatter himself 
by reason of his confession as if elected to the reward of 
glory, when by this very fact the merits of punishment have 
grown the more. 

Chapter 22 

For the Lord chose even Judas among the Apostles, and 
yet later Judas betrayed the Lord. Nevertheless, the firmness 
and faith of the Apostles did not on this account fall, because 
the traitor Judas defected from their fellowship. So also in 
this case the sanctity and dignity of the confessors was not 
immediately diminished, because the faith of some of them 
was broken. The blessed Apostle speaks in his letter saying: 
'For what if some of them have fallen away from the faith? 
Has their infidelity made of no effect the faith of God? 
God forbid. For God is true, but every man a liar.' 1 The 
greater and better part of the confessors stand firm in the 
strength of their faith and in the truth of the Lord's law 
and teaching, neither do they depart from the peace of the 
Church, who remember that they have obtained grace in 
the Church from God's esteem, and by this very fact do they 
obtain greater praise for their faith, that they separated 
themselves from the perfidy of those who had been joined 
with them in the fellowship of confession, and withdrew 
from, the contagion of their crime. Moreover, illumined by 

1 Cf. Rom. 3.3,4. 



118 SAINT CYPRIAN 

the light of the Gospel, shining with the pure white light of 
the Lord, they are as praiseworthy in preserving the peace 
of Christ as they were victorious in their encounter with the 
devil. 

Chapter 23 

Indeed, I desire, most beloved brethren, and I likewise 
advise and entreat, that, if it can be done, no one of the 
brethren perish, and that our rejoicing Mother enclose in 
her bosom, one body of people in agreement. If, however, 
saving counsel cannot recall certain leaders of schisms and 
authors of dissensions who persist in their blind and obstinate 
madness to the way of salvation, yet the rest of you either 
taken by your simplicity, or induced by error, or deceived 
by some craftiness of misleading cunning, free yourselves 
from the snare of deceit, liberate your wandering steps from 
errors, recognize the right way of the heavenly road. The 
words of the Apostle giving testimony are: 'We charge you 
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that you withdraw 
from all brethren who walk disorderly and not according 
to the tradition which they received from us.' 1 And again 
he says: 'Let no one deceive you with vain words; for be- 
cause of these things comes the wrath of God upon the 
children of disobedience. Be ye not, therefore, partakers with 
them. 52 We must withdraw, rather flee from those who fall 
away, lest, while one is joined with them as they walk 
wickedly, and passes over the paths of error and crime, 
wandering apart from the way of the true road, he himself 
also be caught in a like crime. God is one and Christ one 
and His Church one and the faith one and the people one 
joined together by the tie of concord into a solid unity of 

1 2 Thess. 3.6. 

2 Eph. 5.6,7. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 119 



body. The unity cannot be torn asunder, nor can the one 
body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn 
into bits by the wrenching asunder of its entrails by lacera- 
tion. Whatever departs from the parent-stem will not be 
able to breathe and live apart; it loses the substance of health. 



Chapter 24 

The Holy Spirit warns us, saying: 'Who is the man that 
desireth life; who loveth to see the best days? Keep thy 
tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Turn away 
from evil and do good; seek after peace, and pursue it.' 1 
The son of peace ought to seek and follow peace; he who 
knows and loves the bond of charity ought to restrain his 
tongue from the evil of dissension. Among his divine com- 
mands and salutary instructions the Lord now very near 
His passion added the following: 'Peace I leave you, my 
peace I give you.' 2 This inheritance He gave us, all the gifts 
and rewards of His promise He assured us in the conser- 
vation of peace. If we are heirs of Christ, let us remain 
in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God, we ought to 
be peace-makers. 'Blessed,' He said, 'are the peace-makers, 
for they shall be called the sons of God.' 3 The sons of God 
should be peace-makers, gende in heart, simple in speech, 
harmonious in affection, clinging to one another faithfully in 
the bonds of unanimity. 

1 Cf. Ps. 33.13-15. 

2 John 1457. 

3 Matt. 5.9. 



120 SAINT CYPRIAN 

Chapter 25 

This unanimity existed of old among the Apostles; thus 
the new assembly of believers, guarding the commandments 
of the Lord, maintained their charity. Scripture proves this 
in the following words: 'But the multitude of those who 
believed acted with one soul and one mind.' 1 And again, 
'And all were persevering with one mind in prayer with the 
women and Mary the mother of Jesus and His brethren. 52 
Thus they prayed with efficacious prayers; thus they were 
able with confidence to obtain whatever they asked of God's 
mercy. 

Chapter 26 

But with us unanimity has been so diminished that even 
the liberality of our good works has been lessened. Then they 
sold their homes and estates, and, laying up treasures for 
themselves in heaven, they offered to the Apostles the proceeds 
to be distributed for use among the poor. But now we do 
not even give a tenth of our patrimony, and, although the 
Lord orders us to sell, we rather buy and increase. So has 
the vigor of faith withered in us; so has the strength of be- 
lievers languished. And therefore the Lord, looking upon our 
times, says in His Gospel: 'When the Son of man comes, 
do you think that He will find faith on the earth?' 1 We see 
that what he foretold is coming to pass. There is no faith 
in the fear of God, in the law of justice, in love, in works. 
No one considers fear of the future; no one thinks of the 
day of the Lord and the anger of God and the punishments 

1 Acts 4.32. 

2 Acts 1.14. 



1 Luke 18.8. 



THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 1 2 1 

to come upon unbelievers and the eternal torments decreed 
for the faithless. Whatever our conscience would fear, if it 
believed, because it does not believe, it does not fear at all. 
But if it did believe, it would also be on guard; if it were 
on guard, it would also escape. 



Chapter 27 

Let us rouse ourselves in so far as we can, most beloved 
brethren, and, breaking the sleep of old inertia let us awake 
to the observing and keeping of the Lord's precepts. Let us 
be such as He Himself ordered us to be when He said: 
'Let your loins be girt, and your lamps brightly burning, and 
you yourself like to men waiting for their Lord, when He 
shall come from the wedding, that when He comes and 
knocks, they may open to Him. Blessed are those servants 
whom the Lord, when He comes, shall find watching. 11 We 
ought to be girt, lest, when the day of departure come, it 
finds us burdened and entangled. Let our light shine forth 
in good works and glow, so that it may lead us from the night 
of this world to the light of eternal brightness. Let us always 
with solicitude and caution await the sudden coming of the 
Lord, so that, when He knocks, our faith may be vigilant, 
ready to receive from the Lord the reward of its vigilance. 
If these mandates are kept, if these warnings and precepts are 
maintained, we cannot be overtaken while sleeping by the 
deceit of the devil; we will reign as vigilant servants with 
Christ as our Lord. 

1 Luke 12.35-87.